In Summary
  • The Stepwagon is a breath of fresh air after inundation by clichés in the form of Toyotas Noah.
  • Honest question, does every family have one or what?
  • These things are everywhere, particularly in silver.

Hi Barasa, 

I love your articles. They are always informative. 

Why was it reduced to one page? I noticed they increased the pages for the obituaries though. 

Anyway, how would you compare the Honda Stepwagon with the Toyota Noah?




The page reduction stemmed from some internal concerns that culminated in my taking a break for a month (February 22 to March 22) before resolution was achieved and now we are back. Anyway...

The Stepwagon is a breath of fresh air after inundation by clichés in the form of Toyotas Noah. Honest question, does every family have one or what? These things are everywhere, particularly in silver.

How boring can a van get?

The one you want is the Generation 5 car, currently in production. It is an interesting little car in the following way: the engine has been downsized even further, down to 1.5 litres, which is just ridiculous. However, the excision of trouser meat in the form of cubic inches has been mitigated by the deployment of bedroom aids in the form of a turbocharger and Honda’s famous VTEC cam-swapping witchcraft, which should make for sprightly performance, as it should, because this car looks properly aggressive, especially when specced in white on black livery.

There is another party piece manifested in the tailgate, what they call the “waku waku” (Japanese for “exciting”) Gate. It opens up like a normal tailgate, but if that is too cliché and Noah-like, then it could open sideways as a form of sub-door. At least that gives you something to play around with to take your mind off the fact that you have just bought a van with a small engine, sharp looks notwithstanding.


Hi JM,

Thank you for your informative articles. I have been reading them but I am not sure whether you have ever done a review of the Freelander. I bought a Freelander Td4 (2008) diesel engine, manual. So far I am very satisfied but guys keep telling me to dispose of it before it starts giving me problems. Should I listen to them?


Yes, you should.

Land Rovers are not paragons of reliability; in fact, they are the opposite. The more modern the vehicle, the higher the chances of heartbreak at the garage door. The thing with modern Land Rovers is that they are very nice to drive or to even just sit in, and they are very capable in their tasks and very handy to use. I daresay they are the segment leaders in their respective niches. However, using one is not necessarily the same as owning one; have one under your care and bitterness will set in before too long. A Land Rover will test even the most patient individual; however patient you might be,  a Land Rover’s foibles will outlast that patience until it eventually gets you on your knees, a convenient position because from there you will be able to see the oil patch underneath the car as it slowly bleeds to death.


Hi Baraza,

First, I salute you for your knowledge of motoring and your ability to weave words on that topic.

I recently found myself with a Nissan B15 in my hands following the passing away of my old man. It is currently sitting atop some sturdy stones as I work my butt off doing freelance work so that I can make it shine, and hopefully, make the Toyota cult members revere a different deity.

On to my questions:

1. Its starter recently got fried. My wily mechanic wants me to buy an ex-Japan used one from him but my gut tells me that I should simply replace the fried armature or just get a brand new one. Is replacing the armature alone good enough, or will I find myself creating a traffic jam soon?

 2. The front left wheel is slightly off position – about 3 to 5cm nearer the back than it should be (my estimation). Is the “arm” warped or should I prepare for a fat can of problems? How do I rectify that?

3. I’ve driven it before and at about 80km/h, braking was accompanied by shaking of the steering wheel. I suspect warped discs, that rickety front wheel, and possibly worn-out bushes. What could it be?

4. Last time I fired it up, it produced absolutely white smoke, white like a cloud. Is coolant mixing with fuel? If so, what is the remedy? The engine has clocked 179,000km; should I overhaul it or plan for a new one?

5. How effective is an engine overhaul, i.e.  are new rings, etc. effective in restoring compression and power? 

6. It’s a 2002 model, manual (which is great! 15kmp/l when I’m sane). I’d like to soup it up with the simple addition of alloy rims. No change in size, anything to be wary of in that regard?

7. Considering it has been dormant for about two months, are there other parts I should look into as part of its first major servicing/restoration? Wheel bearings? Fuel pump? Oil pump? Filters? Wheel balancing and alignment? 

Big Fan Jr



Thank you for the compliment. I try. My condolences for your bereavement, I hope you are holding strong post-tragedy.

Now, this B15 of yours, what is its history? From your description, you might be having scrap on your hands.

1. What part of the starter was fried? In some contemporary cars, it is better to replace the entire device than to try and repair its individual components.

2. What you describe is called “toe out”, and is usually expressed in degrees (angle) rather than length (centimetres) but then again, 3-5cm off-centre in whichever direction is a bit extreme. This is more than a simple alignment issue, something is seriously bent underneath, and most likely from an impact (a pothole perhaps?) the car might have suffered prior to its retirement atop the sturdy stones you speak of. The entire steering geometry might require reassembly and straightening.

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